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Malzahn Impressed with "Loyal" Class

Head Coach Gus Malzahn following Auburn's game against Vanderbilt in 2016 (Photo: Matt Gaught)

Auburn Football has officially signed 23 student-athletes for the 2017 signing period, announced by Head Coach Gus Malzahn on Wednesday. Malzahn describes this season’s big day as relaxing, stating that there was no drama regarding any of Auburn’s commits paperwork coming through the fax machine at the athletic complex. “I think that says a lot about the signees loyalty, and I think that says a lot about our staff, which did a wonderful job of developing relationships. Everything went pretty much as planned today, which was a blessing.” BREAKING DOWN THE CLASS: Malzahn mentioned during his post-signing day press conference that keeping big name recruits in the state was a top priority. He and his staff did a solid job of that, by signing 10 prospects from Alabama. The headliner is linebacker KJ Britt of Oxford. Behind him, are DB Malcolm Askew (McCalla), WR Noah Igbinoghene (Trussville), DL Alec Jackson (Montgomery), LB Tadarian Moultry (Birmingham), DB Jordyn Peters (Muscle Shoals), LS Bill Taylor (Tuscaloosa), OL Austin Troxell (Madison), WR JaTarvious Whitlow (Lafayette), and RB Alaric Williams (Southside). Auburn also brought in six signees from Georgia, three from Florida, and one each from Colorado, Illinois, Texas, and D.C. EARLY ENROLLEES: Seven of Auburn’s 23 signees enrolled prior to the spring semester that began in January, and each of those has the capability of making an impact rather early in their career. Offensively, the class is led by Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham. Stidham, who was ranked as the number 1 JUCO quarterback in the nation, enrolled at Auburn over Texas A&M, Florida, and others. In his freshman year at Baylor, Stidham completed 75 passes for 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns. According to Malzahn, Stidham is expected to come in and fight for the starting quarterback job along with Sean White and Woody Barrett. Behind him is tight end, Sal Cannella of Scottsdale Community College in Arizona, originally from Illinois. Cannella could see quality time early, as he is the only true tight end on Auburn’s roster, which could open play calling possibilities for new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. “We really felt like he had great ball skills, (he) can stretch the field. We needed some depth at tight end, so he really felt that need.” Two more signees on the offensive side of the ball are Malik Willis and Nick Brahms. Willis, who is listed as a quarterback in this year’s class, led Roswell High School in Atlanta to the class 7A state championship in 2016. As a senior, he passed for 2,562 yards and rushed for an extra 1,033. Malzahn mentioned that Willis is not quite as experienced at that position, only playing for a year, but feels that he could have been one of the best in the country if he had more than four years behind center. He also reminds Malzahn of Nick Marshall, by his running style and the way he passes. Brahms is an offensive line product from Navarre, Florida, who is looking to bounce back after suffering a broken leg that cost him his senior season. He has a great resume, though. He is an Army All-American and won the Doc Blanchard Award for outstanding scholar-athlete. Auburn added three more defensive players to their early enrollee list. Kenny Britt Jr of Oxford is a prototypical hard-hitting player that was rated 5th in the state of Alabama. Malzahn describes Britt as a true inside linebacker, “He really provides a physical presence, he has the ability to make the people around him better.” Chandler Wooten is another linebacker that could complement Britt, in the way that he can provide a solid rush off the edge. At North Cobb High School in the Atlanta Metro area, he earned 124 tackles, 15 were for a loss. He also won the class 7A defensive player of the year, which is the same classification that fellow early enrollee Malik Wills played in. Malcolm Askew rounds out the early enrollees, as a defensive back. Askew is rather athletic, as he played quarterback for McAdory High School during his senior season. NATIONAL SIGNING DAY: Although it was a rather quiet day on the Plains, it is not safe to say that National Signing Day was complete “drama free”. There were two surprises but in good ways. The first came early this morning at a High School located just 24 miles north of Auburn University, Lafayette High School. Quarterback JaTarvious Whitlow had received offers from Georgia State, UAB, and everyone’s predicted destination, Tulane. Whitlow surprised local media when he announced that he would come to Auburn. In an interview with the Opelika-Auburn News, Whitlow was close to signing with Tulane but felt that he needed reassurance, a sign if you will, that he was making the correct decision. The sign? Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Steele called Whitlow this morning and told him that offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey really wanted to bring him in. Whitlow made the decision to sign with Auburn. What was it about the 6’0” 200-pound speedster that stood out to Malzahn? “He came to camp this summer, and just had an outstanding camp,” said Malzahn. Defensive coaches wanted him to play safety, while offensive coaches wanted him as a slot receiver. Whitlow’s path to Auburn became more clear once Chip Lindsey arrived on campus. “We pulled up the film again and felt like we needed him to be a part of our offense. He’s got a very good skill set, he’s got very good ball skills, we are going to play him at wide receiver.” The second surprise came from defensive end Markavious “Big Cat” Bryant. Auburn looked at Bryant as a player that could be used as the “Buck”, a position made famous by Carl Lawson. Bryant took his last official visit to Auburn this past weekend and announced this morning that he had committed to Auburn. Bryant was also receiving attention from LSU and Georgia, before ultimately choosing Auburn. “We have recruited him for a long time. He is a pass rushing machine, and he is an Auburn type kid with a great family and a great support system.” Bryant is a top-15 prospect according to multiple services from Cordele, Georgia, and participated in the Under Armour All-America game. Bryant also comes from a great bloodline, as he is the cousin of former defensive lineman Montravius Adams. Other than those two, every other announcement was expected. The only scare that this recruiting class faced was from offensive line prospect Calvin Ashley. The five-star from Washington, D.C was being pressured from nearby Maryland to flip his commitment status, but he assured Auburn fans that the move would not happen and that he was committed to Auburn “110%.” “Calvin is a guy that we feel that come in immediately and have a chance to compete. He reminds me a lot of Greg Robinson when he was (Ashley’s) age. He stayed extremely loyal to us, he’s a five-star guy, he was very solid. We appreciate him and really looking forward to coaching him.” Offensively, Auburn signed 12 players with seven signing today. Joining Ashley is TE John Samuel Shenker, who reminds Malzahn of Philip Lutzenkirchen. WR Noah Igbinoghene, OL Austin Troxell, RB Alaric Williams, RB Devan Barrett (the number one running back on Auburn’s board for this class), and WR JaTarvious Whitlow. Six defensive players also join this class. Tadarian Moultry joins the solid class of Auburn linebackers. Moultry was selected as a USA Today All-Alabama first team and played in the US Army All-American Bowl. Three defensive backs were added in Carlito Gonzalez, Jordyn Peters, and Travion Leonard, and Alec Jackson joins Bryant on the defensive line. The 2017 signing class is rounded out by two special teams players in Bill Taylor and Anders Carlson. Stop me if you have heard this one before… a kicker with the last name of Carlson is headed to Auburn. Yes, Anders Carlson is the younger brother of current Auburn kicker Daniel Carlson. Carlson is ranked as the nation’s number one specialist after succeeding on 13-23 field goal attempts with a long of 51, and he was a perfect 49-49 on extra points. The Under Armour All-American played three sports in high school. Taylor was rated as the #2 long snapper prospect by Kohl’s Kicking. “Overall, I look at this class… (they are) very athletic, a lot of character, the academics are very important to them. I’m very excited about this.” Malzahn said of the signing class as a whole. “Our staff did a super job developing relationships, identifying talented kids that have great character. We have guys that can come in here and help us right off the bat. I’m extremely excited to have this class signed, and here.”

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